THE life of a 94-year-old Second World War veteran, who was hailed as an unsung hero, was celebrated on Thursday.

The funeral of Samuel James was attended by family, friends and complete strangers who had travelled to St Oswald’s Church in Winwick to pay their respects to the former serviceman who died in a blaze at his home on Gerosa Avenue on Monday, July 7.

His nephew Nigel John James described Samuel, known to many as Sam, as a ‘quiet but kind man who will be missed’.

Samuel was born on January 10, 1920, in Warrington and lived with his parents, Eliza and Henry James, four brothers and two sisters in the family cottage on Winwick Quay.

The family were very close with many choosing to live within walking distance of each other on Gerosa Avenue in later life.

His dad was a master joiner and Sam would later follow in his dad’s footsteps before retiring in his sixties.

As a teenager, Samuel joined the armed forces and served on the Cheshire Regiment of the Royal Engineers on the bomb disposal squad.

During this time, Sam was posted to a number of camps including Swansea and Africa and was later honoured for his services, collecting five medals for his bravery and courage, which were all destroyed in the fire.

Christine Murphy from Bramhall, who is the daughter of Dennis Ford who served in the forces with Samuel, said: “They were forgotten heroes.

“They were based in Swansea which was badly hit during the Second World War and they would drive off in lorries to diffuse bombs. What they did was incredibly brave.”

Samuel left the forces in 1944 but, despite his reserved nature as he struggled to cope with shell shock, he was well-known and well-loved in the community, said Nigel.

In later life, Samuel, who never married and had no children, enjoyed gardening and walking.

Speaking about the news of Sam’s death, Nigel said: “I would phone him every night of the week and I had just got in from work at 7pm and I tried to call him three or four times but it was engaged.

“I thought that was strange but then I got the knock on the door. Sam was really fit so we aren’t sure what happened to him.

“Each week he would walk to the shops come rain or shine with his trolley in tow. We can’t get our heads around what has happened.”

An inquest into Samuel’s death is expected to be opened in the next four weeks.